No, I am not referring to the oppressive heat and humidity that remains stuck over Minnesota and the upper midwest. I am talking about Heavy Weather by Bruce Sterling, a science fiction novel published in 1994. The story takes place in 2031. Global warming has had a major impact on the world and disaster after disaster has caused governments to topple and currencies to fail. Entire sections of the United States are uninhabitable. On top of that, diseases that used to be easy to control have developed resistance to drugs making life even more dangerous.
The Storm Troupe, led by the brilliant scientist Jerry Mulcahey, chase storms across the midwest and south, gathering data on tornadoes and waiting for the big one. Mulcahey has predicted that one day an F-6 tornado will happen, that if conditions are right it could even become a perpetual storm like the red storm that blows across Jupiter. By his calculations, this is the summer it is going to happen.
The story is told from an alternating third person point of view between brother and sister Janey and Alex Unger. They happen to come from a powerful and wealthy family. Their mother died in an epidemic when they were kids and their father is too busy collecting wealth and power to pay much attention to them. Janey had a job in media and design but threw it over when she met and fell in love with Jerry. Since she is good at building computer interfaces and has a lot of money that she is wiling to share with the Troupe, she manages to be accepted and become one of them.
Alex has been ill since he was a baby. Test after test, doctors are unable to figure out what is wrong with him. He suffers through his illness and suffers through treatments that help him feel better for short periods of time before he ends up right back where he began or worse. When the novel opens Alex is in an illegal Mexican clinic and close to death. They have given him a lung enema to clear the congestion and left him strapped to the bed and hanging upside down. Janey has used all the resources at her disposal to track down and rescue her brother and bring him back with her to the Troupe.
Alex finds he likes most of the people in the Troupe and he finds chasing storms exciting. The lung enema actually helped and he can breath pretty well and feels almost good for the first time in a long time. He knows, however, he is not cured and by the time the F-6 does hit, he is not worried that he might die in the storm, he figures it’s a better way to go than slowly suffocating from the fluid that is gradually building back up in his lungs.
I found the book uneven but enjoyable for the most part. For a book about heavy weather and storm chasing it took about a third of the way in before there were finally some tornadoes to chase. Sometimes the dialogue can be rather lame and the character development is hit and miss. I found a number of the secondary characters more interesting than the main ones at times. Also, Sterling’s sex scenes are poorly written and tend toward bad male fantasy sex at best and display a stunning lack of knowledge about female sexuality at worst.
However, the storm chasing and other action scenes were pretty good and were what kept me reading. Well that and the fact that Bookman gave me the book to read because he thought I’d like it after we had had a discussion recently worrying about climate change. The F-6 when it comes is a bit disappointing. It starts of rather exciting and the thought of even the possibility of something like it happening is chilling. But the danger and suspense to Alex and Janey and the rest of the Troupe chasing the storm is not sustained very well because we get pulled into a subplot that takes us out of the chase.
Heavy Weather gets generally good ratings on Amazon and GoodReads and is pretty popular. It’s a fast, easy read that wants to make you think about climate change and the horrors we have to look forward to if something isn’t done right away. Since it doesn’t seem like governments or corporations are doing anything to stop global warming, we just might find ourselves one day in a heavy weather future.